Finding a negative search result about either yourself or your business can be alarming and upsetting. But while it may be challenging to discover, it’s not the end of the world.
As long as the negative content doesn’t show up on the first page of Google, most people will not notice it. Studies show the majority of people searching your name or business online most likely won’t dig past the first page.
It’s much easier to monitor search results by taking a proactive approach to tracking your name and business in search results, but if you come across stuff that has already existed for some time, here are some emergency tactics on how to fix a negative search result.
It can be tempting to respond or take action immediately, but you need first to understand as much as possible about the content and why it’s there. Should you choose to respond in the heat of the moment, keep in mind, your response will be publicly available, and could sometimes make the situation worse.
The best thing to do is research: where is the negative search result appearing in search results? Where is it hosted? How damaging is the content? Is there a site owner you can contact?
Investigate first, then begin thinking of possible ways to handle the attack in the best and most professional way possible.
Have a Plan for the Conversation
If this is a negative review for your business, plan on it happening. More people than ever before depend on Online reviews these days, and reviews can make all the difference in the success or failure of your business.
It’s not necessarily the bad review that could reflect poorly on your company, but rather the way you choose to handle the complaint.
The ideal scenario for managing negative reviews is to have a well-crafted plan for responding to them.
Make sure to answer promptly. Especially if it’s a negative review, you don’t want that festering around online unattended. It may be unwise to respond immediately, but you should address it as soon as possible.
Be polite and professional, and establish contact with the unhappy customer. If it was a genuine mistake or issue, accept responsibility and apologize. Most clients will understand if they feel the business has heard their grievance and tried to make amends.
The plan should always be to address the issue and resolve it offline, so be sure to direct the conversation towards a private platform.
Take it Offline
There are two ways to get a negative search result removed: to have it removed or to bury it below positive results. And it comes down to the pages you own and the pages you don’t.
If you own the page or website, you should be able to remove the content on your end. But most likely if it’s a negative search result, it’s coming from a page you don’t own.
The first step you can take is to try contacting the website owner somehow and explaining that content on their site is causing issues for your business. Politely provide examples and say you’d appreciate if they could remove it. It’s worth a shot.
You can also request to have Google remove the URL, but you should check to make sure you have legitimate reasons for removal. Under certain conditions, Google will remove sensitive materials from their search index.
Just remember removing content from Google results isn’t the same as removing something from the Internet. You can have a negative search result removed, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist on the Internet anymore.
Check Google’s removal policies and reach out if you can.
Consult a Professional
If this is a case of online defamation, an intellectual property concern or online impersonation, your situation may require some consulting an Internet Attorney or a professional Online Reputation Management firm. In many cases, it is possible to remove these types of attacks from the Internet altogether.
In summary, it is best practice to prepare for negative search results. When they appear, be sure to understand as much as possible about the situation at hand. If you choose to respond, be professional and courteous, and try to take the conversation offline. If your case is more severe, you may wish to consult a professional to discuss removal or de-indexing solutions. Even if you can’t get the content removed, there are other options for how to make the negative result nearly disappear.